Thankfully, taking care of our earth, and trying to reverse damage already done to our land, air, and waterways is more popular than ever. The problem is that it needs to be. We live in a world with shrinking biodiversity, polluted water, and unclean air. Around the globe, many people live in unsanitary slums where healthy living is next to impossible. The United Nations has committed to doing its part toward a cleaner, more sustainable environment through the seventh Millennium Development Goal, which focuses on reversing the loss of environmental resources, increasing access to clean water, and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
Climate change is a tough force to reckon with, and though global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and eliminate sources of waste have led to some improvements, it’s doubted that the targets set out in Millennium Development Goal 8 will be reached by 2015. Today, almost 17,000 species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction, and countries the world over are experiencing the harshest seasonal temperatures—both hot and cold—in recorded history. These temperature shifts affect the most fundamental aspects of life, including where we can live and what we can eat.
One film that demonstrates the need for sustainability and attention to climate change is 2005’s smash hit documentary “March of the Penguins.” Although the film was criticized by some who said it did not adequately address the threat of global warming, the entire film actually revolves around climate, and the Emperor Penguins’ vulnerability to any shift in weather. The filmmakers followed a colony of penguins on their annual trek to their mating ground. To reproduce successfully, the penguins must trek from the ocean to an incredibly remote—and dangerously cold—part of the South Pole. The cold is both a blessing and a curse: Only on extremely thick ice can female penguins safely lay eggs –otherwise, the eggs may fall through ice and freeze before the chicks can hatch. However, the same freezing temperatures that thicken the ice enough to provide relative safety for the eggs is also a threat—the male birds, who guard the eggs and keep them warm, must move constantly to keep their blood flowing and prevent their own death in such low temperatures. In severe storms, many of the male penguins die, abandoning their eggs to the cold.
As we know, it’s not only Emperor Penguins who have such a tenuous relationship with our climate—severe shifts in temperatures affect our access to water, our ability to grow crops, and threaten entire species that are vital in natural food chains. When resources grow scarce, impoverished people, minorities, women, and young people often suffer most. Without serious action toward a cleaner, more sustainable world, we will continue to have problems when it comes to the other Millennium Development Goals, including poverty and hunger, child health, gender equality, and maternal health.